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Sparrow! Finished Bird of the Fortnight

Watercolour sparrow illustration. Ella Johnston. Bird of the Fortnight

When Dr B urged me to draw sparrows for Bird of the Fortnight I did so reluctantly – what a fool I was! Through working up the black and white sketches, then exploring the bird through watercolour and ink, I’ve come to realise how charming these creatures are.

Their mottled black, brown, golden and coffee-coloured plumage is really quite lovely. The bird’s bodies are great for an artist too; depending on the individual creature it can either be cute, full and fat or sleek, slim and almost svelte-like. Now I think I’m going to work on a few more sparrow sketches.

I’m not the only one who loves these birds. In fact as I was working on these drawings I was approached by someone who is opening an antiques shop in the US. She wanted a logo featuring a sparrow wearing a crown. I was only too happy to oblige. Here’s the finished commission.
King Sparrow. Illustration Commission. Ella Johnston.

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Finished Plant of the Fortnight: Iris

Iris, watercolour and ink (c) Ella Johnston

I’m really pleased with my finished plant of the fortnight illustration. I love the way the layers of watercolour have captured the deep blue and purple tones of the iris flower. I’m also happy with how the different nib weights of my felt-tip drawing pens add texture and structure to the petals, stem and leaves.

We’re attempting to grow irises in our garden this year. Regular Ella’s Place readers will know that my garden can be a be of a diva, only growing the things she likes. The garden is lovely as occasionally we agree but I wouldn’t mind her doing me a favour this spring/summer. I’ll let you know if the irises appear and if they look nice I’ll post photos.

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Finished Bird of the Fortnight: Black Headed Gull

Black Headed Gull (c) Ella Johnston

As I mentioned earlier this week with my black and white drawings, the black headed gull is a constant companion for any Wivenhoe resident.

The gull isn’t a particularly glamorous bird I suppose, however it is quite a handsome creature in my opinion. It has a gorgeous sleek head (this dark colour comes along in the spring and summer for sexy mating times) and rather lovely white and silver feathers. I love these guys and I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to see them everyday!

I didn’t have to overwork this piece for the final illustration. Although the colour looks light, there are actually several layers of  washes in a range of silvery, blue, purple, pink and grey watercolours. Because this bird is quite sleek I don’t want to go to town on fine detail on this drawing, so I kept my ink lines gestural and fluid, maybe a little rough and ready like the birds themselves.

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Plant of the Fortnight: Thistle

Thistle illustration (c) Ella Johnston
I have very good associations with the thistle, that’s why I picked them as this fortnight’s plant. They may be prickly but I think they are a great alternative to ‘girly’ flowers and I love the look of them either cut or as beautiful structural blooms in the garden. I enjoyed sketching these quick black and white drawings.

Thistle illustration (c) Ella Johnston

I also like thistles because they remind me of a very special friendship. Many years ago we had some new mates over to ours for dinner and it turned in a very boozy affair. One particular guest left her handbag at ours when she left in the earlier hours of the morning. The following day she turned up to pick the bag up with a full bouquet of white daisies and blue, green thistles and we ended up talking over strong cups of tea (and many crisps and biscuits) way into the evening. A bond was formed and we have been buddies ever since.

Thistle illustration (c) Ella Johnston illustration (c) Ella Johnston
Thistle illustration (c) Ella Johnston

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Finished Bird of the Fortnight: Blackcap

Blackcap bird watercolour and ink illustration (c) Ella Johnston

Here’s my finished bird for this fortnight. A worked-up watercolour and ink illustration of the blackcap – a beautiful little grey warbler. Earlier this week when I showed off my black and white sketches, I said I loved the blackcap song. Well according to the RSPB website its “delightful fluting song has earned it the name ‘northern nightingale'”. The one I saw certainly was very tuneful.

Folk names for the blackcap often refer to its plumage; black-headed peggy, King Harry black cap and, my favourite, coal hoodie. Other old names are based on its choice of nesting material (Jack Straw, hay bird, hay chat and hay Jack).

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Bird of the Fortnight: Blackcap

Bird of the fortnight. Blackcap bird illustration (c) Ella Johnston

This fortnight I thought I’d do some black and white drawings of the blackcap bird.

I first saw one of these close up during a favourite walk of ours from Manningtree Station to Dedham (with the ultimate destination being the fabulous Sun Inn). It’s a lovely stroll through Constable country – the colours are magical at any point in the year and the area is rich with birdlife and nature. As the blackcap song resonated through the landscape it made a great walk even better. I love the sound this creature makes.

Bird of the fortnight. Blackcap bird illustration (c) Ella Johnston

You can see the final watercolour illustration this Friday.
Bird of the fortnight. Blackcap bird illustration (c) Ella Johnston

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New Plant of the Fortnight: Tulip

Tulip watercolour and ink illustration by Ella Johnston
Happy Good Friday! Hope you’re enjoying the long weekend. Here’s an Easter flower just for you.

So earlier this week I dashed off some quick black and white tulip drawings. I enjoyed doing these sketches as I do love a tulip, I’ve focused on a particularly ornate blush-coloured bloom for the the final version – don’t you just love its sunsetty petals? Watercolour is great for getting this rich effect mixing orange, yellow and pinky hues. I hope your weekend is just as colourful!

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Latest Bird of the Fortnight: Gannet

Gannet Illustration (c) Ella Johnston

Ah the wonderful Gannet. I really enjoyed sketching my black and white drawings earlier in the week and I’m loving my final watercolour and ink illustration as I wanted to capture his beautiful mother-of-pearl type bill and the peachy flush on the bird’s glossy head and neck.

If you’re in the UK you can catch these birds at the breeding colonies at RSPB’s Bempton Cliffs, St Kilda, the Northern Isles and Bass Rock in Scotland and Grassholm in Wales.

As you probably know, the word gannet is associated with greed, this is because this mighty bird supposedly has a capacity for eating large quantities of fish. Gannets hunt fish by diving from a height into the sea and pursuing their prey underwater. Apparently Gannets can dive from a height of 30 metres, hitting high speeds as they strike the water so they catch fish much deeper than most airborne birds.

One of my favourite artistic representation of a gannet is by the fantastic Twinkle Troughton called The “A Gannet’s Stomach is Never Full”. I have a beautiful limited edition print of it in my front room – check it out here.

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Plant of the Fortnight: Wood Anemone

Wood Anemone Illustration (c) Ella Johnston

On Monday I shared some sketchy five minute drawings of some wood anemones, here’s my colour version using watercolour and ink. I’ve also worked up a pretty pattern repeat using the flower and foliage as a motif.

These are really lovely delicate flowers, I love their light, paper-like petals and delicate minty coloured leaves. I’m lucky enough to live near woods and every spring it is full with a delightful carpet of green and white. It’s a wonderful gift every year and gives us a tremendous amount of pleasure.

Wood anemone pattern (c) Ella Johnston

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Bird of the Fortnight: Chaffinch

Chaffinch Illustration (c) Ella Johnston

Earlier this week I posted some super quick sketches of a chaffinch. Here is my finished worked up colour version using watercolour paint and a selection of black ink artist pens.

Wonderfully, chaffinches are one of the UK’s most common birds and, brilliantly, they’re not believed to be in decline. Chaffinches are gorgeous birds and add a real splash of colour to our woodlands, hedgerows, fields, parks and gardens. Unlike a lot of birds in the UK you can actually spot these in most parts of the country; from the parks of central London to the birchwoods of northern Scotland. And I read that they have been found to have regional accents, with slight differences in the typical song depending on where in the country the bird lives. I’m a massive fan of different accents (believe me there is no voice I don’t like) so this pleases me greatly.

Find out more about this fabulous creature at the RSPB website.